Archive for August 10th, 2006

Edspresso: Debate Over Standardized Testing

August 10, 2006 @ 3:18 pm | Filed under:

Edspresso has had an ongoing debate about standardized testing all week. Dana Rapp is not a fan of testing; Richard Phelps is. I’ve been following their discussion with great interest.

Says Dana Rapp:

"Before I moved to Vermont in 2002, I lived in Ohio where standardized
tests and national frameworks created environments where recess was
eliminated, teachers’ salaries were linked to test scores, children
became ill during testing, teachers’ job satisfaction waned, and,
ironically, less appeared to be learned."


"Testing is a booming market where companies like McGraw-Hill and
Harcourt-Brace are reaping record profits with the sale of the
textbooks, tests, practice tests, and improvement kits.
Schooled-to-order children force-fed on scripted curriculum also
benefit big business. As testing proceeds to earlier grades, even
kindergarten, CEO’s and industrial “leaders” can rest even more assured
that future employees will not have the skills, knowledge,
dispositions, and collective consciousness to recognize and act to
change disparities of wealth, loss of jobs, lack of health care, and
corporate corruption in the organizations in which they work."

He avers that standardized testing has "dehumanized" schools and has led to an increase in "sales of anxiety, depression, and attention drugs for children."

I am none too keen on standardized tests myself. I think the need to teach to the test can suck the joy out of learning and shift a student’s experience from connecting to cramming. Not always, not across the board, but in many, many cases. And being good at taking tests doesn’t necessarily mean you are good at thinking. Or remembering, once the test is over.

Rapp’s point about testing becoming a lucrative business is one that had never occurred to me. Interesting to contemplate.

Phelps responds with a reminder that "the U.S. Constitution grants (by deference) responsibility for education to our country’s original founding entities, the states."

"State executives and legislators have the right, and the
responsibility, to determine education policy. By implementing
high-stakes testing programs, state officials are being responsive to
their constituents, who strongly favor such programs."

Really? I’m asking seriously. I’ve never seen data on that question, it occurs to me. Are most average joes really in favor of standardized testing? Is the increase in reliance on testing REALLY a response to what the constituency desires?

You, for example. Reading this blog. Are you an advocate of standardized testing? Not all of you are homeschoolers, and I’m curious to know what you think. (I can hazard a guess as to the opinion of most home educating parents, but even there I don’t presume to KNOW.)

"The fact is," says Phelps, "standardized testing programs are an expression of
democracy. If the public was strongly opposed to them, politicians
would be, too, regardless what corporate executives might want."

Hmm. I don’t know about that. I guess it depends on what "strongly opposed" means. I don’t think this is an issue that the public spends a lot of time worrying about, and unless the public starts marching in the streets ("No more tests!"), I don’t think politicians are going to pay too much attention to what the "public" thinks.

You can read the rest of the debate as it unfolds at Edspresso.

Project FeederWatch Needs You!

August 10, 2006 @ 12:01 pm | Filed under:

Just saw this in the latest Project FeederWatch newsletter:

Citizen Scientists Needed for Acorn Study

Did you know that Blue Jays help oak trees spread by moving acorns?

You can help researchers investigate variation in the size of bur oak acorns and learn more about the distribution of this tree species. Like many North American tree species, bur oaks have moved northward following the end of the last ice age. The goal of the study is to determine the degree to which acorn size has been influenced by the primary dispersal agent of bur oaks—blue jays, which prefer small acorns, or whether size is primarily determined by environmental factors such as day length and the length of the growing season.

What will citizen scientists provide?

Volunteers will collect a sample of 25-35 mature bur oak acorns: 5 – 7 from each of 5 different bur oak trees located reasonably close to where you live. All you need in order to participate is access to 5 bur oak trees! Trees growing on their own in parks or forests are preferred, but trees in landscaped areas are acceptable as long as they are not watered regularly.

How can I participate?

The project coordinator will provide participants with all necessary materials, including information on how to identify bur oaks and a postage-paid envelope for sending collected acorns. The study is being conducted by Walt Koenig, Research Zoologist, University of California, Berkeley, and Jean Knops, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Nebraska, Lincoln.

Who can participate?

U.S. residents living within the bur oak’s range are invited to participate. Bur oaks primarily grow in the following states: North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska (eastern), Kansas (eastern), Oklahoma, Texas (part), Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas (northern), Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan (southern), Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, New York (parts), Maine (parts), and Pennsylvania (parts). If you live in these areas and are interested in participating, please contact Dr. Koenig at

Homeschooling Curriculum: Open Thread

August 10, 2006 @ 11:09 am | Filed under:

I know, I know, it’s August and you’ve all already done your shopping. My plans to spend the summer reviewing curriculum were somewhat derailed by Scott’s job offer and subsequent departure, what can I say. But! I haven’t given up yet.

Except! It’s naptime for my little ones and I’m supposed to have an hour to write this post. But now I hear Wonderboy awake and sad upstairs. So I have to go. But I’ll be back. In the meantime, talk amongst yourselves. What I was going to do here was hit you with a whole bunch of reviews and links and then invite YOU to chime in with your own opinions. Instead I’ll invite your opinions first. What are your plans for the upcoming year? Let’s hear ’em! I’ll be back later.

POSTSCRIPT (but I can’t stay): So I went up to his room, where he was crying on the bed.

Me: What’s the trouble, buddy?

Him: Nee hee-hoo.   (That’s "Need tissue," for you consonant-using types.)

Well, no wonder. I’d cry too if I were lying there in dire need of a heehoo and not a heehoo within reach. Poor little guy.